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March 12, 2017

3 Platemaking Methods all Pad Printers Should Know

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In pad printing, one of the key pieces of equipment to make an impression is the plate (also known as a Cliché). The plate holds the etch which then gets flooded with ink and eventually pressed onto the substrate with a pad. To etch a plate, you will either need to purchase a laser, exposure unit or outsource the platemaking where the same processes will be used. Each technique works differently and will depend on the type of etch you’d like to achieve

Exposure Units

Exposure units utilize UV light, photosensitive plates, film positives and other chemicals to engrave plates. This process has a number of consumables and takes longer to produce a plate than computer to print methods.

CO2 Laser

These lasers utilize a dot pattern perfect for larger logos and images. Polymer plates are used in this type of printing as CO2 lasers are not easily absorbed by metal. C02 lasers are much more flexible and allow you to choose from a number of plate materials. Additionally, they require very little maintenance.

YAG Laser (Ytterbium or YAG fiber laser)

A laser that has a wavelength that is 10 times smaller than the CO2 wavelength resulting in a smaller dot size. YAG lasers provide the highest detailed graphics by using a hatch pattern vs a dot pattern. This type of laser is primarily used in tagless applications where small lettering is required. Conversely, they are easily absorbed by metals but not easily absorbed by other materials.

Each platemaking method has its own pros and cons but the computer to plate techniques require the least amount of consumables and upkeep.